Slovakia is one of the relatively newer countries in the world, having become an independent nation on 1st January 1993. It receives considerably fewer tourists each year compared to some other European nations. Around 2.2 million people visit Slovakia, compared to around 90 million that head to France, one of the most desirable travel locations in the world.
Slovakia’s capital is much smaller than other cities too, with a population of 424,428 in 2016. This is compared to 1.9 million living an hour away in the Austrian capital of Vienna and 1.3 million in the Czech capital of Prague.
Despite being smaller, Bratislava is a great city to visit, offering some unique sights and attractions you won’t find anywhere else.
Visit the UFO
Socialist architecture placed a great deal of emphasis on the cosmos. Many bus stations built during the 20th century in Eastern Europe are themed in some way on rockets, stars, planets, and other objects from space. In fact, there are whole buildings in Russia that are shaped like spaceships.
Not to be outdone, Bratislava had its own space-themed construction, which opened in 1972 after five years of building work.
The UFO looks similar to many other observation decks that you can find around the world, except this one sits on top of an asymmetric cable-stayed bridge that crosses the Danube. It can be seen from a large part of the city and lights up the sky at night in an array of changing colors.
You can ride the lift up to the top of the observation deck and enjoy panoramic views of the city. While you’re there, you can also grab a drink and some food in the restaurant. The prices are some of the highest in the city, but aren’t going to break the bank, and it’s worth paying to enjoy the view.
There is a wide range of nightlife in the Slovak capital, including bars, clubs and casinos. If you’re looking for the latter, then there are three main options in the city. The Olympic Casino inside the Radisson SAS Carlton Hotel has the best online reviews and has staff that speak Slovak, English and German. Inside, you’ll find plenty of gaming options, including roulette and blackjack, as well as Russian poker and other more common variants of the popular card game.
If you’d prefer something more sedate, there are plenty of quiet restaurants and bars that you can relax in. Alternatively, why not take a walk along the Danube River, which runs through the center of the city.
If you went up into the UFO during the day, you can get a special ticket that lets you visit again at night to enjoy panoramic views over the city under the moonlight too. It’s also a great place to get a drink while you enjoy the view in the bar and restaurant, especially during the winter months.
The Bratislava Old Town has many ancient buildings to explore. The towering Michael’s Gate stands over the old town just like it did in 1300. It was originally part of the city’s fortifications, although it’s now home to the Exhibition of Weapons of Bratislava City Museum.
As you walk around the Old Town, you’ll find sights like Maximilian’s fountain, the main square and the Old Town Hall. You’ll also find the Man at Work statue, but you’ll need to look to the ground to find it as it depicts a man climbing out of a manhole.
Bratislava Castle sits on a hill set slightly back from the banks of the Danube. On a clear day, you’ll be able to enjoy views right over Slovakia and even neighboring Austria and Hungary.
The castle itself is more than 1,000 years old and the site has an even longer history. You can explore the castle grounds for free, although it will cost €7 for entry into the museum, which is cheaper than similar attractions in nearby countries.